Sacred Harp Australia

Shape Note Resources & Singings ~ All Welcome

Cancellation of singings

Due to COVID-19, Sydney and Canberra singers have postponed their regular signings until further notice. The Canberra All Day planned for May has also been cancelled.

There are some fun video singing activity happening. Check out the “Sacred Harp Friends” group on Facebook for details.

Until we can meet again; sing strong and stay safe.

Australian Convention

It’s Melbourne’s honour to host the 5th Australian Sacred Harp Convention in January 2020. We would love to welcome you and sing with you!

Schedule (subject to minor changes):

Friday January 24: walking and singing tour and optional dinner together. Starting at 6pm at the RMIT Alumni Square (next to the Old Melbourne Gaol).

Saturday January 25th: singing school and all-day singing 9:30-3:30pm at the Brunswick Uniting Church Bluestone Hall, followed by drinks and optional dinner at the Charles Weston Hotel.

Sunday January 26th: singing from midday until 4:30pm in the Bluestone Hall.

Come to as many events as you like, and stay for as long as you like. Bring friends and loved ones, or invite them to drop in. It’s a great way to hear a larger group of singers, and there is always good food.

All are welcome at either or both days of singing.

Please note: an air-conditioned room at the church has also been reserved, in case of extreme heat.

Also note: Monday January 27 is a National Public Holiday in Australia – you may wish to extend your stay!

For enquiries, please email:

What’s this all about?

Kevin Barrans, a singer from Washington State in the US, provides an excellent overview of Sacred Harp Singing in this video from Seattle’s Art Zone.

Quote Note

The rich multicultural history of Protestant music, which absorbed in the folk styles of each region that was converted, is reflected in the repertory of the Sacred Harpers. There is the influence of John Calvin and the 1539 Genevan Psaltery and of the brilliant Scots psalmodists later in the sixteenth century, where unison and heterophony were fostered; of the musical reformers of the Anglican service; of the radical Methodists, like John and Charles Wesley, who brought many British folk and popular tunes into the hymnals by setting religious words to them; and, all-pervasive, of the Baptists, who led the way in the popular religious revivals in Britain and America and thus introduced many folk tunes and much folksy singing into the church.

From White Spirituals from the Sacred Harp, by Alan Lomax

Quote note

“At a point, in the peaking rush of all that harmony, with so many bold, rushing voices around me, it seemed that not just we, but the song itself began to sing! It seemed to just catch fire and burn across us.” — Buell Cobb, Like Cords Around My Heart

The hollow square

The hollow square ready to welcome singers at the  Dickson Street Space. By Meg Quinlisk (Sydney Shapenote Singers).
The hollow square ready to welcome singers at the Dickson Street Space. By Meg Quinlisk (Sydney Shapenote Singers).

Quote note

“Nothing is weirder than Sacred Harp. Its favored subject matter–the pilgrim, the grave, Christ’s blood–is stark; its style–severe fourths and otherworldly open fifths–has been obsolete for more than a century. Its notation, in which triangles, circles and squares indicate pitch, looks like cuneiform. Yet it exudes power and integrity. Five people sound like a choir; a dozen like a hundred.” — David Van Biema, Give Me That Old-Time Singing, Time Magazine 2008

Quote note

“My music teacher offered twittering madrigals and something about how, in Italy, in Italy, the oranges hang on the tree. He treated me – the humiliation of it – as a soprano.

These, by contrast, are the six elements of a Sacred Harp alto: rage, darkness, motherhood, earth, malice, and sex. Once you feel it, you can always do it. You know where to go for it, though it will cost you.”
Mary Rose O’Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

Welcome to the Australian Sacred Harp community


We’re excitedly working towards this becoming a portal for information about singing Sacred Harp and other sources of shape note music in Australia.

If you are coordinating singings in Australia and would like to include your information, or  if you would like more information please contact Elaena Gardner.

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